ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 review: Better than Otterbox and half the price

The market for heavy duty cases is as diverse as it is cutthroat, with dozens of makers trying to break in and pry stubborn users away from the standard-bearer that is OtterBox. But ArmadilloTek has been slowly gaining steam with Samsung owners thanks to the functional and darn near indestructible Vanguard Series.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the kind of girl to normally rock a heavy duty case. I'll wear them for a week or so for reviews, but I tend to flee back to clear or lighter hybrid cases on my primary phone. The ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series has been the case my S10 has lived in for a month now, and I still haven't seen a good enough to swap over to anything else, which is probably the most glowing endorsement a heavy duty case can receive from me.

The Good

  • Great drop protection
  • Sturdy vertical kickstand
  • Good feeling to buttons
  • Nice texture to bumper
  • Easier to apply and remove case

The Bad

  • Be careful with Qi charger placement
  • Dust plugs feel stiff at times

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 What never quits

The Vanguard Series has a lot of perks, between the mil-spec ruggedness, the dust plugs that help protect your phone's ports, and the low price, but my favorite part of this case is hands down the kickstand. I'm addicted to kickstands and phone grips, and while the kickstand on Vanguard Series isn't made to be a phone grip, I use it as one all the time and it mostly works great. I can stick one finger through the kickstand for a relaxed grip while sitting or walking about, and the tension of two fingers allows you to reliably use the kickstand as a camera grip when out shooting in bumpy conditions.

The kickstand pulls out easily enough — so long as your nails are chewed to the quick like mine are — and it locks into place for sturdy vertical or landscape phone propping, with a few peeks at the S10's native color visible through gaps in the kickstand grooves. It's easy to collapse the kickstand intentionally, even one-handed, but almost impossible to do it on accident.

This is a case that feels solid and sturdy in the hand without feeling completely unruly, with the kickstand helping that along when used as a grip. The chevron texturing on the sides of the bumper allow for extra grip, and the buttons are firm but not stiff, which all in all makes for a pleasant feeling in the hand that helps make up for some of its bulk.

Heavy duty cases are usually a pain to get on and a pain and a half to get off, but ArmadilloTek makes things almost easy with the Vanguard Series. You'll notice the lip around the plastic frame on the bottom right corner has a slight gap, which allows you to slip your finger in and start working the two halves apart in short order. I have heavy duty cases from Otterbox, Lifeproof, Speck, and others sitting in a box across from my desk right now, and the Vanguard Series is easier to apply and remove than the rest of them combined.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10 What could still improve

There are dust/water plugs for the charging and headphone ports on the Vanguard Series, and while they fit very well and don't wear quickly out the way some port flaps do, but the force of the USB-C dust flap worked against me when trying to plug in for Android Auto or a quick charge up. This incentivized me to use Qi charging whenever possible, and while I did have to finagle the placement of the S10 on the charger a tiny bit more because of the added thickness, it did not impede wireless charging completely the way some thick cases tend to.

While the safety cone orange and neon blue seem a bit gauche online, none of the Vanguard Series's half-dozen colors actually look bad in person. I rocked the Purple — it's prettier than the Pink with my Prism Blue S10 — but most of these LOUD colors can make your $900 phone look like a toy at times, which might be a turnoff to some. I hope that some of the more subdued color schemes from ArmadilloTek's Urban Ranger Series for the Galaxy S10+ migrate to the Vanguard Series next year, but so long as you choose your color wisely, you'll be fine.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10

Vanguard Series

This case is rugged, reliable, and really easy to like. It's also half the price of most rugged cases and even cheaper than some regular old hybrid cases for the Galaxy S10, which means that if you're hard on your phone, there's no reason not to grab this case. Especially with the wide variety of colors to choose from, this is a heavy duty case that everyone in the family can like in their chosen style.

4.5 out of 5

With the kickstand to prop up the Galaxy S10 next to my Chromebooks or easily grip on the go, the Vanguard Series reminds me that there are still big, bulky cases out there that are more than worth their salt. Whether you're hard on your phone or life is just harder on your tech, this Texas tough case won't let you down.

ArmadilloTek Vanguard Series case for Galaxy S10

This kickstand case is the epitome of a heavy duty case without a heavy duty tax on its price. Whether you need that kickstand for long hours in the office or superior drop protection out at a job site, the Vanguard Series is made for the working Android power-user.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.